September 22, 2013

Second nature to get outdoors

The Great Maine Outdoor Weekend aims to inform and inspire Mainers to enjoy the plentiful offerings around the state.

By Deirdre Fleming
Staff Writer

WISCASSET — The Back River Trail is not new to the land stewards who maintain it, nor the locals who use it. But it seems the knowledge of this gem along the Maine coast is far from widespread.

click image to enlarge

The path to a scenic overlook on the Back River in Wiscasset is an ideal example of the offerings of the Great Maine Outdoor Weekend. Henry Heyburn, assistant director of the Chewonki Camp for Boys, soaks in the view.

Photos by John Ewing/Staff Photographer

click image to enlarge

Henry Heyburn points to Westport Island as he leads a hike on the Eaton Farm Trail.

Additional Photos Below


For a listing of events, go to

The trail opened in 2006 by the Chewonki Foundation is little-known, said Henry Heyburn at the Chewonki Foundation's 400-acre campus.

The 1.8-mile loop sits on a preserve a few miles from that campus and passes coastal views, tiny rocky lookouts, hayfields and those classic old New England stone walls that are not much different than a boulder field.

The only sounds here are of lobster boats. Mostly the only activity is busy birds of prey.

"It's got forests, fields and the coast. It's got it all," Heyburn gushed on a hike along it last week.

This Friday the trail will be introduced to the entire state when the Great Maine Outdoor Weekend takes place, and Chewonki leads a hike – one of dozens being given across the state next weekend.

Uniquely Downeast coastal hikes, as well as mountain hikes, river paddles, birding expeditions, bike rides and naturalist workshops will take place in literally every corner of the state.

It's part of a major effort to not only get Mainers outside, but to educate them about local land trusts and outdoor groups like Chewonki, and to inspire them to join these groups, or simply enjoy their preserved lands.

The Great Maine Outdoor Weekend is a collaboration among the Appalachian Mountain Club, Maine Coast Heritage Trust, Winter Kids, L.L. Bean and the Burean of Parks and Lands.

It's the fourth time in two years it's been held, and has grown each time, according to Bryan Wentzell at the Appalachian Mountain Club.

As many as 60 outdoor organizations will hold as many as 100 events over the three days.

The truth is, of course, they do it every weekend. But at this Great Maine Outdoor Weekend, the effort is stepped up.

Of the 80 events during the weekend in February, many were self-guided; there are no self-guided events this time, said Kaitlyn Bernard, at the Appalachian Mountain Club's Maine office.

"And we're looking at an event in every county. I can't remember if it was in every county before," Wentzell said. "We'd love it if we could get 5,000 people outdoors in one weekend. Then we'd really like to think it wasn't just twice a year this happened. There is a lot of this stuff going on all the time."

Many of the events this year also are quirky and off-beat.

The Western Foothills Land Trust is holding a 5-kilometer canine-cross run in Norway – yes, humans running while tethered to their pups. Participants can register on race day.

And, evidentially, there are enough turtles in Bangor's Essex Woods Wetlands that the local land trust there can nearly guarantee a day of turtle spotting on a sunny day.

At the Androscoggin Riverlands State Park in Turner, the Turner Public Library has collaborated with Park Ranger Jim Weston for a story walk, where pages of a book are set out across a quarter mile of the park's Homestead Trail.

The Boothbay Region Land Trust is featuring a lesson in survival shelter buildling, taught by a registered Maine guide.

All events can be found at

The Chewonki hike is just one more example of a Maine outdoors group opening up a wonderful trail. The free tour at 3 p.m. Friday is on Eaton Farm Preserve, land that Maine Yankee donated to Chewonki in 2004 as part of a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission settlement agreement. Here Chewonki created a nature preserve and opened a 4.5-mile trail system to the public.

But it's not just a woodland or coastal hike. It's part of a larger effort by Chewonki to create a trail from its coastal campus to the town of Wiscasset, another mini effort to encourage and lure Mainers outdoors.

The tour Friday is a day outside, and a closer look at the kind of conservation work that goes on across Maine all the time.

"On a nice day, there are always cars here. And usually on the weekends. It already gets use," Heyburn said.

Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

Twitter: Flemingpph


Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors

Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

The Back River provides a gorgeous backdrop for those who take advantage of the trails in Wiscasset established by the Chewonki Foundation.


Further Discussion

Here at we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)